Monday 05 December 2011
On the London Symphony Orchestra’s website
there’s a conversation between pianist Mitsuko Uchida and conductor Colin Davis
in which they discuss the Beethoven and Nielsen works they are currently
performing at the Barbican.
Apropos Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto, Davis says he enjoys the ‘unpremeditated little things that can happen’, while Uchida expatiates on the work’s sheer newness: while the first three concertos operate within the shade of Mozart, the fourth turns him into a distant memory.
Most pianists strive to put their stamp on Beethoven’s revolutionary opening phrase – a series of gentle chords ending in a dying fall – but striving is not what’s required. Sweeping on stage in diaphanous silks, Uchida sat down and let the opening speak for itself with an easy conversationality, and in her first virtuoso flight she continued in the same vein, bringing every gesture into intimate close-up. In her flexible hands the development of the Allegro felt like a revelation, probing harmonic realms which to its first audience in 1806 must have seemed shockingly remote. (No other musical event before or since could compare with that freezing December night in Vienna, when Beethoven premiered this masterpiece along with four others of similar significance.) The magic of this movement lies in the detail of the passage-work, and Uchida’s touch covered its spectrum from sotto voce sweetness to massive percussiveness with unfaltering assurance.
The drama of the Adagio has been likened to Orpheus taming the wild beasts at the entrance to Hades, but what Uchida and Davis did with it was extraordinary. Here there was no sense of a struggle for dominance: the orchestra’s rough interpolations seemed to have no effect on the serene momentum of the piano’s discourse, which continued imperturbably until its sudden explosion into trills and chromatic flourishes. Only in the closing Rondo did real debate break out, with Uchida generating visceral excitement. Taking repeated bows at the end, she was visibly moved, as though for her and Davis this performance had a particular personal significance. For the rest of us, it was an encounter with Beethoven which went way beyond the usual questions of assertiveness and technical prowess: it was about beauty first and last.
Haydn’s Symphony No 98 opened this superb concert, and Nielsen’s ‘The Four Temperaments’ closed it: stand by for the LSO Live CD.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland